Increasing Network Resilience with Specialized Weather Forecasts

To address the vulnerability of electricity assets to extreme weather events, such as wind storms, BC Hydro established a system in 2010 that uses weather and hydrology data to inform the company’s decision-making processes. In British Columbia, Canada, extreme weather events, such as windstorms, are a major concern for distribution and transmission lines. In December 2014, a windstorm left 100,000 customers in the province without power. Outages such as this one can have significant impacts on society, shutting down businesses and critical infrastructure such as telecommunication networks and hospitals. Since the key to reducing the impacts of an outage is to act quickly and effectively, advance knowledge of extreme weather events is quite valuable. Since much of BC Hydro’s critical infrastructure and reservoirs are in very remote areas of British Columbia, and are subject to a variety of weather risks, the company supports it’s storm preparedness with a dedicated weather and hydrology forecasting team that produces information about specific places, such as remote reservoirs and transmission lines. When an extreme event be forecasted by the internal system, the team will predict how it may impact infrastructure. This information enables company managers to make appropriate decisions, such as relocating crews or adjusting water levels in reservoirs. To aid this research, BC Hydro partnered with the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium in 2007 on a series of studies, which led to BC Hydro establishing its adaptation strategy in 2010. This system has allowed BC Hydro to prevent major outages due to proactively acting prior to forecasted major events.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

In British Columbia, Canada, windstorms are a major concern for distribution and transmission lines. In December 2014, a windstorm left 100,000 customers in the province without power. Outages such as this one can have significant impacts on society, shutting down businesses and critical infrastructure such as telecommunication networks and hospitals. Since the key to reducing the impacts of an outage is to act quickly and effectively, advance knowledge of extreme weather events is quite valuable. ‘What would a windstorm be like in the future, considering the impact of climate change?’ is a question that many scientists would like to be able to answer with a high degree of confidence. However, extreme events are by nature rare and challenging to analyze. A review of available data related to projected extreme events in the country by Natural Resources Canada shows increasing trends in both the frequency and intensity of extreme hot days and in precipitation amounts for most of Canada — variables in which the scientific community has good confidence. For other weather conditions, such as wind and freezing rain — variables that can have significant impacts on energy-system components such as transmission lines—the information is not as robust. Utilities are therefore left with many uncertainties concerning the frequency and intensity of extreme events in the future. To gain more specialized information than the data provided by the Government of Canada through Environment Canada, BC Hydro developed in-house weather and hydrology forecasting capacity. Much of BC Hydro’s critical infrastructure and reservoirs are in very remote areas of British Columbia, and are subject to a variety of weather risk. The company’s weather and hydrology forecasting team produces information is able to fill knowledge gaps for specific places, such as remote reservoirs and transmission lines.

Identifying Actions

BC Hydro’s current broad strategy for adaptation to climate change grew out of the questions asked by stakeholders in 1994, when the company started to develop water-use plans for the watersheds where it operates reservoirs. The company recognized that more research was needed to develop and interpret future climate scenarios, and to be able to answer questions from external stakeholders. To help analyze the potential impacts of climate change on its assets, BC Hydro began to partner with the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) in 2007 on a series of studies, published by PCIC in 2010 and later summarized in a BC Hydro brochure. In 2010, BC Hydro established an adaptation to climate change strategy that prioritizes vulnerabilities according to the severity of risks and potential business impacts.

Implementation

BC Hydro’s team of 13 meteorologists, hydrologists, engineers, scientists, technologists and analysts produces a hydrologic forecast every weekday to help company engineers optimize water resources for electricity generation, environmental and recreational flows and other uses. The team consults data from the Canadian Meteorological Centre and the U.S. National Weather Service, and co-manages—with the provincial and federal governments—more than 200 monitoring stations. The University of British Columbia (UBC) provides ensembles of point weather-parameter forecasts at exactly the locations that they are interested in. The hydrologic forecast is made using the UBC Watershed Model through an integrated platform developed in-house. Of the team’s annual budget of $4.5 million, 44 percent goes to hydrometric-monitoring stations, while snow-monitoring stations and climate monitoring account for 13 and 9 percent, respectively. This information enables company managers to make appropriate decisions, such as relocating crews or adjusting water levels in reservoirs.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

BC Hydro’s efforts are ongoing, with their forecasting system allowing them to prepare for extreme events, even in remote locations, and protect their assets. For example, In April 2010, the team predicted strong winds in the Strait of Georgia that could lead to the cancellation of ferry service to and from Vancouver Island. Thanks to the warning, BC Hydro dispatched crews before the storm hit to deal with potential outages. A major issue identified by BC Hydro is the lack of standard methodologies about integrating adaptation to climate change.

Further, BC Hydro has no staff resources dedicated to climate change, which means it is a collaboration across the company and with inter-utility working groups to determine how to achieve their goals. As a result, there is some resistance from staff to fulfill their tasks with regards to adaptation, as it is a duty they must do on top of their regular duties .Additionally, each expert in the company has his or her own model and knowledge and it’s often hard to figure out how to incorporate climate information. BC-Hydro is trying to build this knowledge in-house in a way that it builds on itself rather than hire an outside consultant.

Next Steps

BC Hydro recently finished a comprehensive study of climate change impacts on water resources that demonstrates that changes in the timing and amount of inflows to reservoirs will be neither sudden nor dramatic. BC Hydro recognizes that it must manage these incremental changes. While working towards this, BC Hydro continues to use the tools it built to assess, predict and communicate the potential impacts of extreme weather events.


Understanding and Assessing Impacts

In British Columbia, Canada, windstorms are a major concern for distribution and transmission lines. In December 2014, a windstorm left 100,000 customers in the province without power. Outages such as this one can have significant impacts on society, shutting down businesses and critical infrastructure such as telecommunication networks and hospitals. Since the key to reducing the impacts of an outage is to act quickly and effectively, advance knowledge of extreme weather events is quite valuable. ‘What would a windstorm be like in the future, considering the impact of climate change?’ is a question that many scientists would like to be able to answer with a high degree of confidence. However, extreme events are by nature rare and challenging to analyze. A review of available data related to projected extreme events in the country by Natural Resources Canada shows increasing trends in both the frequency and intensity of extreme hot days and in precipitation amounts for most of Canada — variables in which the scientific community has good confidence. For other weather conditions, such as wind and freezing rain — variables that can have significant impacts on energy-system components such as transmission lines—the information is not as robust. Utilities are therefore left with many uncertainties concerning the frequency and intensity of extreme events in the future. To gain more specialized information than the data provided by the Government of Canada through Environment Canada, BC Hydro developed in-house weather and hydrology forecasting capacity. Much of BC Hydro’s critical infrastructure and reservoirs are in very remote areas of British Columbia, and are subject to a variety of weather risk. The company’s weather and hydrology forecasting team produces information is able to fill knowledge gaps for specific places, such as remote reservoirs and transmission lines.

Identifying Actions

BC Hydro’s current broad strategy for adaptation to climate change grew out of the questions asked by stakeholders in 1994, when the company started to develop water-use plans for the watersheds where it operates reservoirs. The company recognized that more research was needed to develop and interpret future climate scenarios, and to be able to answer questions from external stakeholders. To help analyze the potential impacts of climate change on its assets, BC Hydro began to partner with the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) in 2007 on a series of studies, published by PCIC in 2010 and later summarized in a BC Hydro brochure. In 2010, BC Hydro established an adaptation to climate change strategy that prioritizes vulnerabilities according to the severity of risks and potential business impacts.

Implementation

BC Hydro’s team of 13 meteorologists, hydrologists, engineers, scientists, technologists and analysts produces a hydrologic forecast every weekday to help company engineers optimize water resources for electricity generation, environmental and recreational flows and other uses. The team consults data from the Canadian Meteorological Centre and the U.S. National Weather Service, and co-manages—with the provincial and federal governments—more than 200 monitoring stations. The University of British Columbia (UBC) provides ensembles of point weather-parameter forecasts at exactly the locations that they are interested in. The hydrologic forecast is made using the UBC Watershed Model through an integrated platform developed in-house. Of the team’s annual budget of $4.5 million, 44 percent goes to hydrometric-monitoring stations, while snow-monitoring stations and climate monitoring account for 13 and 9 percent, respectively. This information enables company managers to make appropriate decisions, such as relocating crews or adjusting water levels in reservoirs.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

BC Hydro’s efforts are ongoing, with their forecasting system allowing them to prepare for extreme events, even in remote locations, and protect their assets. For example, In April 2010, the team predicted strong winds in the Strait of Georgia that could lead to the cancellation of ferry service to and from Vancouver Island. Thanks to the warning, BC Hydro dispatched crews before the storm hit to deal with potential outages. A major issue identified by BC Hydro is the lack of standard methodologies about integrating adaptation to climate change.

Further, BC Hydro has no staff resources dedicated to climate change, which means it is a collaboration across the company and with inter-utility working groups to determine how to achieve their goals. As a result, there is some resistance from staff to fulfill their tasks with regards to adaptation, as it is a duty they must do on top of their regular duties .Additionally, each expert in the company has his or her own model and knowledge and it’s often hard to figure out how to incorporate climate information. BC-Hydro is trying to build this knowledge in-house in a way that it builds on itself rather than hire an outside consultant.

Next Steps

BC Hydro recently finished a comprehensive study of climate change impacts on water resources that demonstrates that changes in the timing and amount of inflows to reservoirs will be neither sudden nor dramatic. BC Hydro recognizes that it must manage these incremental changes. While working towards this, BC Hydro continues to use the tools it built to assess, predict and communicate the potential impacts of extreme weather events.

Resources